Eemaan is Belief, Statements, and Actions: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah begins surah al-Baqarah with the following words:

الم * ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لَا رَيْبَ ۛ فِيهِ ۛ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ * الَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْغَيْبِ … ـ

Alif Lam Meem * This is the Book about which there is no doubt. A guidance for the muttaqoon * those who believe in the Unseen … [2:1-3]

In many of the books of tafsir, explanation of terms or important topics will usually be placed at the first mention of that thing in the mushaf unless there is some motivating reason to delay it. Here, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir took the first instance of a derivative of the word al-eemaan to define and discuss it:

قال أبو جعفر الرازي ، عن العلاء بن المسيب بن رافع ، عن أبي إسحاق ، عن أبي الأحوص ، عن عبد الله ، قال : الإيمان التصديق . وقال علي بن أبي طلحة وغيره ، عن ابن عباس ، ( يؤمنون ) يصدقون . وقال معمر عن الزهري : الإيمان العمل . وقال أبو جعفر الرازي ، عن الربيع بن أنس : ( يؤمنون ) يخشون . ـ

Abu Ja’far al-Razi reported that … ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood said, “al-Eemaan is belief”.

And ‘Ali ibn Abi Talhah and others transmitted that ibn ‘Abbaas said, “yu’minoon means: they believed”.

Mu’mar said that al-Zuhri said, “al-Eemaan is action.”

And Abu Ja’far al-Razi recorded that al-Rabee’ ibn Anas said, “yu’minoon means: they feared”.

قال ابن جرير وغيره : والأولى أن يكونوا موصوفين بالإيمان بالغيب قولا واعتقادا وعملا قال : وقد تدخل الخشية لله في معنى الإيمان ، الذي هو تصديق القول بالعمل ، والإيمان كلمة جامعة للإقرار بالله وكتبه ورسله ، وتصديق الإقرار بالفعل . قلت : أما الإيمان في اللغة فيطلق على التصديق المحض ، وقد يستعمل في القرآن ، والمراد به ذلك ، كما قال تعالى : ( يؤمن بالله ويؤمن للمؤمنين ) [ التوبة : 61 ] ، وكما قال إخوة يوسف لأبيهم : ( وما أنت بمؤمن لنا ولو كنا صادقين ) [ يوسف : 17 ] ، وكذلك إذا استعمل مقرونا مع الأعمال ؛ كقوله : ( إلا الذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات ) [ الانشقاق : 25 ، والتين : 6 ] ، فأما إذا استعمل مطلقا فالإيمان الشرعي المطلوب لا يكون إلا اعتقادا وقولا وعملا . ـ

Ibn Jarir [al-Tabari] and others said, “The most proper understanding is that these people are characterized by having eemaan in the Unseen, manifested in their statements, their beliefs, and their actions.” And he also said, “Fear of Allah could also be included in the meaning of al-eemaan, as it is an affirmation of one’s statement through his actions. al-Eemaan is a comprehensive term for an affirmative belief in Allah, His Books, and His Messengers, as well as actualizing that affirmation through one’s actions.” Continue reading

Meanings of the words Yahood, Nasaara and Saabi’oon: Tafsir al-Baghawi

Imam al-Baghawi offers some linguistic definitions and benefits in his tafsir of surah al-Baqarah [2:62] by writing:

 ـ ( إن الذين آمنوا والذين هادوا ) يعني اليهود سموا به لقولهم إنا هدنا إليك أي ملنا إليك وقيل لأنهم هادوا أي تابوا عن عبادة العجل وقيل لأنهم مالوا عن دين الإسلام وعن دين موسى عليه السلام وقال أبو عمرو بن العلاء : لأنهم يتهودون أي يتحركون عند قراءة التوراة ويقولون : إن السماوات والأرض تحركت حين آتى الله موسى التوراة . ـ

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَالَّذِينَ هَادُوا

Verily! Those who believe and those who haadoo … [2:62]

meaning, the Yahood (Jews). They were called by that due to their statement

إِنَّا هُدْنَا إِلَيْكَ

indeed, we have hudnaa to You. [7:156]

meaning, we have turned to You.

And some say that they are called that because they haadoo [reconciled] – i.e. repented – from their calf-worship.

Some others say they are called that because they turned away from the religion of Islam and from the religion of Moosaa (peace be upon him).

Abu ‘Amr ibn al-‘Alaa’ said they are called that because they yatahawwadoon – meaning they rock and sway when they are reciting the Tawrah and because they say that the heavens and the earth shook when Allah gave Moosaa the Tawrah. Continue reading

A Note on Qur’anic Dictionaries: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool wrote the following short clarification on his personal blog:

 معلومة حول كتب معاني كلمات القرآن وكتب غريب القرآن: ـ
Some information regarding books on Qur’anic terms and uncommon vocabulary

ليس كل ما جاز لغة جاز تفسيراً، وهناك قوم يستندون في تفسيرهم على الاستدلال، يفسرون الآيات والأحاديث بحسب اللغة، فنتج عن هذا إهمال المرادات الشرعية؛ ـ
– فأضاعوا الحقائق الشرعية للألفاظ، ـ
– وأضاعوا الحقائق العرفية للألفاظ، ـ
وبالتالي صار عندنا تفسير قرآن ليس هو التفسير الذي أراده الله سبحانه وتعالى. ـ

Not everything which is true linguistically is true in terms of tafsir, however there are some people who base their explanations of the Qur’an upon linguistic analysis and explain the ayaat and ahaadeeth according to their linguistic meanings. This, however, leads to a neglect of their intended sharee’ah-based meanings. So they neglect the true sharee’ah meanings of these words, and they also neglect the actual conventional meanings of the words. In our view, by doing so these explanations of the Qur’an are not the explanation which Allah meant for us to understand. Continue reading

Divorce in the Qur’an – Part 2: Imam al-Sa’di

In his book of thematic tafsir, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di dedicated a chapter of his book to the issues related to marriage and divorce. This series of articles will present the different sub-divisions of this chapter in order. This is the ninth section overall – and the second on divorce – : 12345678 – 9 – 10

وقال تعالى: {يا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا نَكَحْتُمُ الْمُؤْمِنَاتِ ثُمَّ طَلَّقْتُمُوهُنَّ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ تَمَسُّوهُنَّ فَمَا لَكُمْ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِنْ عِدَّةٍ تَعْتَدُّونَهَا فَمَتِّعُوهُنَّ وَسَرِّحُوهُنَّ سَرَاحًا جَمِيلًا} [الأحزاب: 49] ـ

And Allah said:

يا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا نَكَحْتُمُ الْمُؤْمِنَاتِ ثُمَّ طَلَّقْتُمُوهُنَّ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ تَمَسُّوهُنَّ فَمَا لَكُمْ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِنْ عِدَّةٍ تَعْتَدُّونَهَا فَمَتِّعُوهُنَّ وَسَرِّحُوهُنَّ سَرَاحًا جَمِيلًا

O you who believe! When you marry believing women and then divorce them before you have touched them, then there is not any ‘iddah to count concerning them for you. Then provide for them, and release them in a handsome manner. [33:49]

ففي هذه الآية أن المفارقة في الحياة بطلاق ونحوه ليس لزوجها عليها عدة إذا لم يدخل أو يخل بها، بل بمجرد ما يطلقها لها التزوج في الحال. ـ

So this ayah contains the fact that separation while both are alive due to divorce and the likes of that does not require any ‘iddah (waiting period) for the wife if the husband has not had intercourse with her or been alone with her in seclusion. Rather, from the very moment of her being divorced she is able to marry (another person) in that scenario.

وفي هذا أن العدة تثبت بالدخول، وكذلك الخلوة، كما ثبت عن الخلفاء الراشدين، ومفهوم الآية أن الفراق بالموت تعتد له الزوجة المعقود عليها ولو قبل الدخول . ـ

And this ayah also contains the fact that the ‘iddah is confirmed in the case of intercourse, and likewise in the case of seclusion, as has been authenticated by the Rightly-Guided Khulafaa’. And the implication of this ayah is that in the case of separation by death, the wife who is engaged in a marriage contract must complete the ‘iddah for her husband even if the death took place prior to intercourse. Continue reading

Those who neglect the prayers and pursue desires: Tafsir al-Shawkaani

In surah Maryam, Allah mentions a series of Prophets, and then describes some of their descendants by saying:

فَخَلَفَ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ خَلْفٌ أَضَاعُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَاتَّبَعُوا الشَّهَوَاتِ ۖ فَسَوْفَ يَلْقَوْنَ غَيًّا * إِلَّا مَن تَابَ وَآمَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَأُولَـٰئِكَ يَدْخُلُونَ الْجَنَّةَ وَلَا يُظْلَمُونَ شَيْئًا

But there came after them successors who neglected prayer and pursued desires; so they are going to meet evil * Except those who repent, believe and do righteousness; for those will enter Paradise and will not be wronged at all. [19:59-60]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Shawkaani commented on this in his book of tafsir by writing:

ولما مدح هؤلاء الأنبياء بهذه الأوصاف ترغيبا لغيرهم في الاقتداء بهم وسلوك طريقتهم ذكر أضدادهم تنفيرا للناس عن طريقتهم فقال : فخلف من بعدهم خلف أي : عقب سوء . قال أهل اللغة : يقال لعقب الخير خلف بفتح اللام ، ولعقب الشر خلف بسكون اللام ، وقد قدمنا الكلام على هذا في آخر الأعراف أضاعوا الصلاة قال الأكثر : معنى ذلك أنهم أخروها عن وقتها ، وقيل : أضاعوا الوقت وقيل : كفروا بها وجحدوا وجوبها ، وقيل : لم يأتوا بها على الوجه المشروع . ـ

So after Allah had praised these prophets by mentioning these qualities as a means to encourage others to emulate them and follow in their footsteps, He then mentioned their opposites as a means to discourage people from their ways. So He said:

فَخَلَفَ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ خَلْفٌ

But there came after them successors

meaning: evil ones came after them. And experts in the language say: If you want to say that good followed something, then you say khalafun with a fathah on the letter laam, while if you want to say evil followed something, then you say khalfun with a sukoon on the letter laam. And we have already spoken about this in the end of surah al-Aa’raaf.  Continue reading

Ashaab al-Aykah and the People of Shu’aib: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah begins recounts the story of His prophet Shu’aib in surah al-Shu’araa’ by saying:

كَذَّبَ أَصْحَابُ الْأَيْكَةِ الْمُرْسَلِينَ * إِذْ قَالَ لَهُمْ شُعَيْبٌ أَلَا تَتَّقُونَ

The Ashaab al-Aykah denied the messengers * when Shu’aib said to them, “Won’t you have taqwaa?” [26:176-177]

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir mentioned the following point in his discussion of these verses:

 هؤلاء – أعني أصحاب الأيكة – هم أهل مدين على الصحيح . وكان نبي الله شعيب من أنفسهم ، وإنما لم يقل هنا أخوهم شعيب ; لأنهم نسبوا إلى عبادة الأيكة ، وهي شجرة . وقيل : شجر ملتف كالغيضة ، كانوا يعبدونها ; فلهذا لما قال : كذب أصحاب الأيكة المرسلين ، لم يقل : ” إذ قال لهم أخوهم شعيب ” ، وإنما قال : ( إذ قال لهم شعيب ) ، فقطع نسبة الأخوة بينهم ; للمعنى الذي نسبوا إليه ، وإن كان أخاهم نسبا . ومن الناس من لم يتفطن لهذه النكتة ، فظن أن أصحاب الأيكة غير أهل مدين ، فزعم أن شعيبا عليه السلام ، بعثه الله إلى أمتين ، ومنهم من قال : ثلاث أمم . … والصحيح أنهم أمة واحدة ، وصفوا في كل مقام بشيء ; ولهذا وعظ هؤلاء وأمرهم بوفاء المكيال والميزان ، كما في قصة مدين سواء بسواء ، فدل ذلك على أنهم أمة واحدة . ـ

These people – meaning the Ashaab al-Aykah [the People of the Thicket] – are the people of the city of Madyan according to the correct opinion. The prophet of Allah Shu’aib was one of them, and the only reason why he is not referred to here as “their brother Shu’aib” is because here they are being described in relation to their worship of the aykah, which is a sort of tree – and some say it is a twisted sort of tree like a thicket -, which they used to worship.

So it is because of this that when Allah said, “The Ashaab al-Aykah denied the messengers“, He did not then say, “when their brother Shu’aib said to them…”, but instead said, “when Shu’aib said to them…“. So He cut off the relationship of brotherhood between Shu’aib and his people in the sense of them being referred to as “his people” even though he was in fact related to them as their brother. Continue reading

Those who do not witness al-Zoor: Tafsir al-Tabari

In surah al-Furqaan, Allah devotes a number of ayaat to describing the characteristics of the ‘ibaad al-Rahman (the slaves of the Most Merciful). Among these descriptions is His statement:

وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَشْهَدُونَ الزُّورَ وَإِذَا مَرُّوا بِاللَّغْوِ مَرُّوا كِرَامًا

And they are those who do not witness al-zoor, and if they pass by some ill talk, they pass by it with dignity. [25:72]

al-Haafidh ibn Kathir clarified the meaning of “those who do not witness” briefly in his tafsir by writing:

 والأظهر من السياق أن المراد : لا يشهدون الزور ، أي : لا يحضرونه; ولهذا قال : ( وإذا مروا باللغو مروا كراما ) أي : لا يحضرون الزور ، وإذا اتفق مرورهم به مروا ، ولم يتدنسوا منه بشيء ; ولهذا قال : ( مروا كراما ) . ـ

From the context, it appears that the intended meaning of “they do not witness al-zoor” is that they are not present for it or in attendance when it is happening. In line with this, Allah said:

وَإِذَا مَرُّوا بِاللَّغْوِ مَرُّوا كِرَامًا

and if they pass by some ill talk, they pass by it with dignity.

meaning: they are not in attendance when al-zoor occurs, and if they do happen to pass by it, then they do not let it sully them in the least. In this vein, Allah said:

مَرُّوا كِرَامًا

they pass by it with dignity.

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 6/132]

There were a number of different interpretations of the meaning of al-zoor among the salaf. Sheikh ibn al-Jawzi summarizes these different opinions as follows: Continue reading

Qiraa’aat and their Conditions for Acceptance: Sheikh Muqbil

Sheikh Muqbil ibn Haadee al-Waad’iee was asked the following question regarding the different qiraa’aat, or recitations of the Qur’an:

نص السؤال: هل القراءات السبع أو العشر متواترة ؟

Question: Have the seven qiraa’aat or the ten qiraa’aat come to us through mutawaatir transmission (i.e. through a large number of independent routes of transmission)?

نص الإجابة: القرآن متواتر ، وأغلب القراءات متواترة ، أما بعض الأحرف فقد ذكر الشوكاني رحمه الله تعالى عند تفسير قول الله عز وجل : ” وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ الَّذِي تَسَاءَلُونَ بِهِ وَالْأَرْحَامِ ۚ” [ النساء : 1 ] هي بالمصحف ” وَالْأَرْحَامَ ” ذكر أن هذا الحرف لا ينبغي أن يقال أنه متواتر لكن يقال : هو ثابت عن النبي – صلى الله عليه وعلى آله وسلم – . ـ

Response: The Qur’an has reached us through mutawaatir transmission, and most of the qiraa’aat have reached us through mutawaatir transmission.

As for some of the individual letters, al-Shakwaani mentioned a variant reading in his explanation of the first ayah of surah al-Nisaa’:

وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ الَّذِي تَسَاءَلُونَ بِهِ وَالْأَرْحَامِ ۚ ـ

And have taqwa of Allah, through whom and through the ties of kinship you ask one another for your mutual rights

with the word “ties of kinship” there taking the genitive case, while in the mushaf it comes as:

وَاتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ الَّذِي تَسَاءَلُونَ بِهِ وَالْأَرْحَامَ ۚ ـ

And have taqwa of Allah, through whom you ask one another for your mutual rights, and have taqwa of the ties of kinship (i.e. do not break them)

where the word “ties of kinship” takes the accusative case.

So al-Shawkaani mentioned that is is not proper to refer to this particular variant letter change as having reached us through mutawaatir transmission, although one may say that it is authentically attributed to the Prophet (ﷺ). Continue reading

The Understanding of the Disbelievers is Limited to this Life: Imam al-Shinqitee

Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee authored a valuable work entitled Dafa’ Eehaam al-Idhtiraab ‘an Ayaat al-Kitaab to respond to and dispel any supposed conflicts, mistakes and contradictions in the Qur’anic text. What follows is one excerpt taken from his coverage of surah al-Baqarah:

قَوْلُهُ تَعَالَى: أَوَلَوْ كَانَ آبَاؤُهُمْ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ شَيْئًا وَلَا يَهْتَدُونَ. ـ

Allah’s statement:

أَوَلَوْ كَانَ آبَاؤُهُمْ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ شَيْئًا وَلَا يَهْتَدُونَ

… Even though their fathers understood nothing, nor were they guided? [2:170]

هَذِهِ الْآيَةُ الْكَرِيمَةُ تَدُلُّ بِظَاهِرِهَا عَلَى أَنَّ الْكُفَّارَ لَا عُقُولَ لَهُمْ أَصْلًا، لِأَنَّ قَوْلَهُ: «شَيْئًا» نَكِرَةٌ فِي سِيَاقِ النَّفْيِ، فَهِيَ تَدُلُّ عَلَى الْعُمُومِ . ـ

According to its outward appearance, this noble ayah indicates that the disbelievers do not possess any understanding at all, because His statement, “nothing” is indefinite in the context of negation, and this indicates a general applicability.

وَقَدْ جَاءَتْ آيَاتٌ أُخَرُ تَدُلُّ عَلَى أَنَّ الْكُفَّارَ لَهُمْ عُقُولٌ يَعْقِلُونَ بِهَا فِي الدُّنْيَا كَقَوْلِهِ تَعَالَى: وَزَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَعْمَالَهُمْ فَصَدَّهُمْ عَنِ السَّبِيلِ وَكَانُوا مُسْتَبْصِرِينَ [29 38] . ـ

But there are other ayaat which indicate that the disbelievers possess understanding and that they use it to understand this worldly life, such as His statement:

Continue reading

The Meanings of Muhkam, Mutashaabih, and Ta’weel: al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah

The Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and Fataawaa of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia received the following question. In their collected statements, they placed this question and answer as the first entry in their section of tafsir-related questions:

س: ما هو المقصود بالمحكم والمتشابه في آيات القرآن الكريم؟ وكيف ندفع الإِشكال الذي يورده البعض من أنه إذا كان القرآن الكريم تبيانًا لكل شيء وهدى للعالمين؟ فما هو وجه التوفيق بين ذلك وبين قوله تعالى: وَمَا يَعْلَمُ تَأْوِيلَهُ إِلا اللَّهُ وَالرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْمِ ؟ وما المقصود بالراسخين في العلم؟ وما الفرق بين تأويل القرآن وتفسيره؟ ـ

Question: What is the intended meaning of the terms Muhkam and Mutashaabih when they come in the Qur’anic verses? And how can we rebut the problem which some people raise that since the Qur’an is a clarification of everything and a guidance for mankind, then how do we reconcile that with Allah’s statement:

وَمَا يَعْلَمُ تَأْوِيلَهُ إِلَّا اللَّـهُ ۗ وَالرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْمِ

And no one knows its ta’weel except Allah, and those firm in knowledge [3:7]

And what is the intended meaning of those firm in knowledge? And what is the difference between the ta’weel of the Qur’an and the tafsir of the Qur’an?

ج: أولاً: يطلق الإِحكام بمعنى: الإِتقان، فإحكام الكلام: إتقانه ووضوح معناه فيتميز به الصدق من الكذب في الأخبار، والرشد من الغي في الأوامر، والقرآن كله محكم بهذا المعنى، واضح لا التباس فيه على أحد، قال الله تعالى: كِتَابٌ أُحْكِمَتْ آيَاتُهُ ثُمَّ فُصِّلَتْ مِنْ لَدُنْ حَكِيمٍ خَبِيرٍ ، وقال سبحانه: تِلْكَ آيَاتُ الْكِتَابِ الْحَكِيمِ . ـ


○ First: the term muhkam is applied to the meaning of al-itqaan (excellent proficiency), so muhkam speech  would mean proficiency of speech and clarity of meaning such that it distinguishes the truth from falsehood in terms of information and guidance from misguidance in respect to commands. And according to this usage, the entire Qur’an is muhkam; it is clear without any confusion whatsoever. Allah said:

كِتَابٌ أُحْكِمَتْ آيَاتُهُ ثُمَّ فُصِّلَتْ مِن لَّدُنْ حَكِيمٍ خَبِيرٍ

a Book whose verses are perfected and then presented in detail from the Wise and Acquainted. [11:1]

and He said: Continue reading